October 12, 2013
Refugee advocates say a pregnant asylum seeker being held on Nauru needs specialised care, which is not available on the island.
The Iranian woman who is carrying twins is believed to be six months pregnant, and advocates say she should be taken off the island.
Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition says the woman’s family have told him she is being held at the family camp.
“She was okay the last I heard, but as I said, [we are] just concerned about how the conditions on Nauru are going to affect her and her baby and her health,” he said.
Part of the hospital on Nauru was destroyed by fire in August, affecting the pharmacy, medical stores and X-ray unit, but the maternity ward was not affected.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has outlined what maternity facilities are at the hospital.
“There are two delivery beds, six post-natal beds and a special care baby unit. The hospital has the capacity to perform caesarean sections and other surgical interventions and has pain relief options available to it,” he said.
Mr Morrison says there are nine midwives and a paediatrician working on Nauru.
“Around 360 babies are born every year in that hospital, and the midwives are probably some of the most experienced you’ve probably found working under those conditions,” he said.
I need to stress: there are no exceptions to offshore processing.Immigration Minister Scott Morrison
“So on top of that there is also the support provided by IHMS (International Health and Medical Services), who constantly monitor everyone’s condition who may find themselves in that situation.
“But I need to stress: there are no exceptions to offshore processing.”
‘Inhumane conditions’ not appropriate for pregnant women
Asylum seeker advocate Pamela Curr is a former midwife and she is worried about the health of the babies when they are taken back to the camp.
She says reports from workers who have returned from the island indicate temperatures inside tents are reaching 50 degrees Celsius.
“The mothers may be able to deliver the babies safely in the hospital,” she said.
We’re worried about the survival of those babies post-delivery in these inhumane conditions: communal tents, 50-degree heat and no running water.Asylum seeker advocate and former midwife Pamela Curr
“What we’re worried about is the survival of those babies post-delivery in these inhumane conditions: communal tents, 50-degree heat and no running water.”
The Immigration Department has told the ABC the accommodation on Nauru has electric fans to help make conditions more comfortable.
Professor Nicholas Talley is president-elect of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
He says he does not think offshore processing is an appropriate place for pregnant women and young children.
“Well, there’s a number of risks. For example, there’s high risks of gastroenteritis,” he said.
“People [are] living close together, issues of potentially contaminated water supplies could be possible and there have been outbreaks. For example, in August 2013, 100 asylum seekers detained on Nauru did contract gastroenteritis.”
Mr Talley says Australia has a responsibility as a nation for the health of the asylum seekers.